A/N: Written for the LJ community Naruto-flashfic (just replace the hyphen with an underscore), per request of uchiokoshi. In the comm, you ask for four requests, and whoever gets them had to do one. I did three, heh. This is for the requests for "Team Yondaime-centric" and "pre-Uchiha-massacre-centric." Um, since this exactly 100 percent true to either of the requests and the fic ends post-massacre, I also did a request for ShizuneKabuto, heheh... Hope you like your fics, uchiokoshi!! Anyway, reviews would be love, so all please read and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing, except the plot and maybe Great Aunt Roshima, but frankly, I'd rather not have her.
Shame and Fame
"We don't have a mission today?" Kakashi asked dubiously, waiting for his sensei to laugh and say he was just kidding. But his sensei simply kept grinning and shook his head.
"Nope. You guys get a break today," the blond jounin said cheerfully. "Have fun."
"But—" Rin began, but was interrupted by Obito's cheer.
"You're the best, Sensei!" Obito said, and attempted to run off.
Kakashi caught him by the collar of his jacket. "Why?" he asked their sensei, holding Obito from running away.
The jounin shrugged casually, still grinning from ear to ear. "Two reasons," he said. "Firs, you're going on a very dangerous mission tomorrow. I thought you should get some rest today. Not only will you be sabotaging enemy resources, but it will be Kakashi's first mission as your commander."
Obito's elation immediately changed into a sulk. The war. Obito hated the war. It was annoying and terrifying and too hard to fight. He'd been thrilled when he had first become a chuunin and discovered that he'd get to help in some real battles. But that had been before he'd learned about warfare.
He couldn't help but think, though, that the whole thing would be a lot easier if he could use the Sharingan...
"Wait a minute," Obito said. "Did you say Kakashi is gonna be—"
"Second," their sensei interrupted, "you guys should have a chance to celebrate Kakashi's promotion to jounin. As of tomorrow, he'll be a part of Konoha's elite."
There was a moment of dead silence. And then Rin: "Kakashi-kun! That's fantastic! I'm so happy for you!" She held out her arms for a congratulatory hug, which Kakashi ignored. She embraced Obito instead. "Isn't this great?" she asked him.
Obito felt his face heat up. "Yeah, whatever," he muttered, squirming out of Rin's hug and adjusting his goggles so she wouldn't see his blush.
She hadn't congratulated Obito like that when he'd become a chuunin, he thought morosely. Or had she? He couldn't recall; all he remembered was the smug look on Kakashi's face, who had become a chuunin a year earlier. Dammit, it wasn't Obito's fault he hadn't made chuunin that year! In the final round he'd been paired up against a Rock-nin, and with the war going on, he'd tried to murder Obito. Technically that was in the rules, but he was bitter anyway.
"Obito-kun," Rin scolded, "you should be happy for Kakashi-kun! He's our teammate."
Sure, but he acted like their god. Becoming a jounin wouldn't improve that.
"I gotta go," Obito said, turning away from his team. "See you tomorrow."
"Don't be late next time," their sensei said.
"Hey, Obito!" Kakashi called. "Don't forget to bring a gift. It's traditional!"
"What kind of a stuck-up jerk asks someone for a gift?" Obito shot, then ran away.
It wasn't fair. Why was Kakashi the special one? What did he have that Obito didn't?
Funny, his goggles must have been loose. Obito stopped running and shoved his goggles onto his forehead to wipe away his tears. Something must have gotten in his eyes.
It was still mid-morning when Obito got back to the Uchiha compound. He kept his gaze low so that no one else would see he'd been crying. Maybe he could make it home without being noticed and spend the day reading comics.
No such luck. "Obito-kun? Is that you?" A slightly desperate-looking woman with a child in tow hurried up to him. "What are you doing here?"
"Hi, Aunt Mikoto," Obito said. "We got off today 'cause we have a tough mission tomorrow."
He expected her to ask about the mission, but instead she said, "Are you planning on doing anything today?"
"Huh? Not really," Obito said. He might train some after lunch...
Mikoto sighed in relief. "You're a hero, Obito-kun. I need someone to baby-sit. Fugaku and I both have missions today and everyone else is busy. Can you help?"
"Sure, no problem," Obito said. He liked baby-sitting. He'd realized a long time ago that he would probably end up with ten kids someday.
"Thank you so much!" Mikoto said. She leaned forward to give Obito a kiss on the forehead, but hesitated on the way back up. "Obito, your eyes are red."
For a moment a spark of hope rose in him, but then she said, "Are you using your eye drops regularly?"
The spark was quickly doused. "I'll try to remember, Aunt Mikoto."
"You should. The eyes are the most important weapon of an Uchiha," she said. "Anyway, take care of him. I should be back a little after dinner." She passed her child to Obito and hurried off. "Thank you so much, Obito-kun!"
He looked down at his cousin and grinned. He always did, seeing such a solemn expression on such a little kid. "C'mon, Itachi-kun," he said, taking his cousin's hand. "Where do you want to go first?"
Itachi looked thoughtfully at his feet. "I want dango," he finally said.
"Okay, as long as you don't tell your mom," Obito said.
Itachi nodded, and grinned up at his cousin. "I won't tell if you won't."
Obito hadn't known that Itachi was capable of such a devious grin.
Obito ordered a plate of dango for Itachi and a plate for himself. Itachi ended up eating off of Obito's plate. This wouldn't have bothered him in the least if Itachi had finished his own plate first.
After a futile attempt to convince Itachi that, really, they both had the same kind of dango, Obito gave up and let him eat off whatever plate he wanted. He could still have the leftovers.
As Itachi ate, Obito decided it'd be better to have a conversation than to just sit and watch his dango be devoured. "Have you been practicing with kunai like I showed you?" Since Obito baby-sat so often – on most of his free days – he had started teaching Itachi a few ninja skills. Maybe Obito wasn't exactly the pride of the Uchiha clan, but he'd do his best to make sure that Itachi was the strongest ninja that Konoha would ever see.
Itachi said, "Yeah," around a mouthful of dango, and swallowed. "Sometimes I hit the target."
"Really? That's great!" He knew he'd chosen a smart kid! Of course, Itachi was hitting targets at four years old and Obito hadn't been able to do that until he was nine. He'd probably catch up to Obito pretty soon, and then he wouldn't need him as a teacher. But that was fine. By that time, everyone would notice that this little kid had chuunin-level skills, he'd start getting more attention, and someone else would take up his training. He'd be one of Konoha's best in no time at all. Just like Kakashi.
He frowned to himself. He'd like to see Itachi get strong, of course, but he didn't want him to turn into a jerk like Kakashi.
"Hey, Obito-kun?" Itachi said. He'd finished off Obito's plate and was starting on his own.
Obito looked at the dwindling supply of dango in dismay. "Yeah?"
"Why are you always sad?"
That got his attention. "What makes you think I'm sad?" he asked.
"When you come back from missions, you're always frowning and your eyes are red," Itachi said matter-of-factly. "Sometimes you get upset when you talk to adults. Why?"
"Uh, well..." Obito pulled out his eye drops so he wouldn't have to look at Itachi. The kid was way too observant. "I'm frowning because there's this guy on my team who's really mean, and he bothers me all the time," he said, pushing his goggles up, tilting back his head, and squeezing a couple of drops into his right eye. "And my eyes are red because I get a lot of dirt in them during missions."
"But you're eyes don't get red after training with me," Itachi protested.
"That's because there's less dust in the air in the Uchiha compound," Obito said, squeezing some drops into his left eye and blinking quickly to keep the liquid from sliding off.
"No, there isn't!" Itachi said.
"Yes, there is."
Itachi gave his cousin a dubious look. "Really?"
"Really," Obito said firmly, putting his eye drops away. "The air here is cleaner. It's because the Uchiha have to keep their eyes clean."
Itachi nodded, satisfied. "I see." Obito had to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing.
"Then why do you get upset around adults?" Itachi asked.
Obito put his goggles back on slowly, giving himself time to think about the answer. It wasn't what they said to him. They were usually asking him about his eye drops, or how his latest mission had gone, or whether he was behaving himself and representing the clan well. They never said anything mean, but Obito knew what he truly was. Dropout. Failure. Wimp. Cry baby. He was thirteen years old and he'd never activated the Sharingan once, not even a single tomoe in a single eye. He knew it, and so did they.
And he was so, so tired of being the shame of the clan. He would do anything to make his family proud.
"I guess I'm a little embarrassed about not being able to use the Sharingan," Obito said, grinning sheepishly.
Itachi shrugged. "I can't use it either," he said, as if he couldn't be gladder.
"Yeah, but I'm thirteen and you're four," Obito said. He tried to explain it in a way that a little kid could understand. "When you get old, you're supposed to know more things. I've been alive so long I can remember things that happened before you existed."
Itachi looked at Obito with wide-eyed awe (he loved it when he could get his cousin to do that), and then took on a thoughtful expression. "You saw things that happened before I was here?" Itachi asked.
"You bet," Obito said. "I even remember the day that the Second Hokage died." It had been a few months before Itachi was born.
Itachi looked at Obito as if he were some new source of infinite knowledge. "How was I created?" he asked.
There was a long, awkward silence. Obito forced a laugh. "I was somewhere else at the time." He changed the topic. "Hey, are you going to eat all your dango?"
"I'm done," Itachi said, grinning that wicked grin. He had entirely eaten both his and Obito's dango. He jumped out of his seat. "Let's go train."
"Okay, wait for me!" Obito said, getting up and grabbing Itachi's hand. He glanced at the two empty plates as they left and sighed. So much for a breakfast.
When Obito's father was a child, he had set up a training area in a wooded area at the outer edge of the Uchiha compound for himself and his sister Mikoto to use, and now his son was using it. Most of the shrubs and grasses had been cleared around the boulder in the center of the training area, and several kunai targets had been attached to the trees surrounding the clearing.
Every day after school, Obito had trained here until tears of frustration streamed down his face. Over the years they turned into tears of joy when he finally mastered the kunai and then the Katon Gokakyu no Jutsu, and then turned again to frustration as he kept training and realized he was still worthless.
But now that he was training Itachi, they were usually tears of laughter.
"You have the kunai I gave you, right?" Obito asked.
"Yeah, and I took two from Father," Itachi said. He ran over to a thick bush at the edge of the training area and pulled a plastic bag from beneath it. He unrolled the bag and took out three kunai.
"That's good," Obito said. He wasn't sure how effective the kunai would be in combat after being left outside under a bush for weeks at a time, but they were fine for practice. "So, show me how you can throw."
"Okay," Itachi said, and then ran to the worn spot in the dirt that Obito had declared was the practice spot. He turned towards a target hung on a tree about ten feet away and threw two kunai. One got stuck in the bark above it, but the second hit just inside the target.
"Great job!" Obito said. "You're definitely improving."
"But I missed!" Itachi protested, pointing at the first kunai.
"Not by much. Besides, you're training to be a ninja, and ninja attack people, not targets. Obito picked up a loose target from the ground and held it in front of his chest. "Say you were attacking me and you aimed for this target. What would happen if you missed?"
Itachi stared at Obito, then looked at the kunai embedded in the tree. "I'd hit your shoulder?"
"Exactly," Obito said. "You wouldn't kill your target immediately, but you'd still incapacitate it. Right?"
"Right," Itachi said, nodding.
"As long as you reach your goal, it doesn't matter if you do it right," Obito said. Thinking of Kakashi, he added, "Following all the rules is stupid, anyway."
"Okay. Thank you, Obito-kun," Itachi said.
Obito grinned. "No problem." His former academy teacher would probably kill him for telling a kid that aim wasn't important, but that didn't bother him. "Since you mastered the basics, you're gonna learn a new move now," Obito said. "Watch this."
Taking two kunai, he ran up to the large rock in the middle of the clearing. Then he jumped at it, pushed off with both feet, and as he went backwards in mid-air he threw two kunai. Each hit a target as Obito landed.
Itachi watched with the same calm patience as always. "I can't do that," he said confidently.
"Sure you can! You just need to take it in steps," Obito said. "First you practice the run and jump. Then we get you up to one kunai, and then two."
Itachi gave the rock a considering look. "I'll try."
"Great! I'll be up here," Obito jumped on top of the rock, "so I can watch you. I'll tell you what you need to fix."
Itachi nodded, and then ran full-speed at the rock. He jumped at the last possible moment, planted one foot on the side of the rock, and fell on his back with one leg stuck in the air.
Obito laughed so hard he had to sit down to keep from falling himself. Looking down and seeing Itachi, red-faced and glaring up at him, only made it worse. "Try jumping a little earlier!" he said, lifting his goggles to wipe tears from his eyes. "And don't try to land on the rock. Just kick off it."
Still red-faced, Itachi stood and tried again. He was able to jump back a few feet before landing on his butt.
That time, Obito was able to resist the urge to let out more than a small giggle. "It's okay. I did that all the time when I started out. You're doing better already."
And after two more hours, Itachi was able to land on his feet and stumble backwards three or four steps before falling on his butt. His progress was astounding.
"Do you want to eat lunch at my house or yours?" Obito asked, carrying his exhausted cousin on his back.
"Your house," Itachi said. For some reason, he loved visiting Obito's home. Little kids were weird like that.
"Then mine it is."
The Uchiha compound was pretty deserted this time of day. Everyone was on missions or at school, except for the little kids like Itachi or the older, retired family members. Very few ninja lived to reach retirement.
As they were walking through the empty compound, Itachi suddenly asked, "What makes a ninja famous?"
Obito stopped walking for a moment, completely thrown off by the question. "Several things," he finally said.
"Like what?" Itachi kicked his legs impatiently, so Obito started walking again.
"One way is to kill a bunch of ninja all at once. They have to be strong ninja, too, like ANBU. That'll get you remembered," Obito said. "Another way is to die to save someone important, like the Hokage."
Itachi nodded. "What did the Uchiha clan do to get famous?"
"I dunno." The clan leaders told members about their history once they got their Sharingan. "Only the special ones get to know that," Obito said bitterly.
"Then how do normal people know we're famous?" Itachi asked.
"They just hear, I guess," Obito said. "Why don't you ask Fugaku-san?"
"Father told me to stop asking stupid questions," Itachi said darkly.
Obito frowned. He still wondered how his uncle had become a dad. On Obito's third birthday, Fugaku had given him a katana. Third birthday. Fugaku wasn't exactly the ideal fatherly figure. "My sensei said there's no such thing as a stupid question," Obito said, "except 'What's the weather like in the Land of Rain today?'"
Itachi nodded gravely, and Obito grinned. Maybe his little cousin wasn't such a genius after all.
"What about, 'Who lives in the Hokage Mansion?'"
For a moment, Obito was stunned into silence. Then he burst out laughing. "That's true! And 'What time will the three o' clock raid be?'"
"'How many ninja are in your three-man team?'"
"'Is that kunoichi a boy or a girl?'"
At that moment a rather ugly, mean-looking woman turned the corner. She had a faint dark fuzz over her scowling lips and a wicked-looking shuriken strapped to her back. "What was that, Obito?" she snarled.
He gulped. "Hello there, Great Aunt Roshima. I'd love to chat, but I'm babysitting." He grinned weakly, then turned and ran. They really didn't get along.
"Hey, Obito!" Roshima yelled. "How are your eyes?"
"Just fine, thanks, the goggles help!" he shouted back.
"That's not what I meant!"
Obito didn't slow down to reply.
As it turned out, Itachi didn't have lunch. His training and Obito's sprinting had shook his stomach up so much that it decided the two plates of dango would be better off somewhere else. Obito hardly had time to carry him to the toilet before he started throwing up.
Obito sat on the floor beside Itachi, rubbing his back and waiting until he was finished. When Itachi was finally done, and was just whimpering and shivering, Obito wiped off his face with a wet paper towel like his mother used to do and handed him a cup of water. "Did we learn something from this?" he asked Itachi gently, pulling a big towel down from the towel rack for his cousin to use as a blanket.
Itachi looked at his cousin with the most miserable expression he'd ever seen.
"Something about dango?" Obito prompted.
"Don't eat two plates?" he said pitifully.
"No," Obito said, "don't eat someone else's dango."
Itachi nodded wearily and shut his eyes. "Okay, Obito-kun," he said, so faintly that Obito could barely hear him.
He scooped up Itachi, towel and all, and carried him to Obito's bedroom. He probably needed the sleep more than lunch anyway. Obito ran to the kitchen long enough to heat some cup ramen and get a juice box before going back to his room. If Itachi woke up and was sick again, Obito had to get him out of bed before he puked on the orange sheets with the little black spirals. He loved those sheets.
When Obito was almost done with his meal, Itachi groggily asked, "Who's that?"
"What?" Obito said, looking up. Itachi's eyes were only half open, but he was looking fixedly at a picture on Obito's nightstand.
"Those are my teammates," Obito said, leaning over to point at each face. "Me, my sensei, the jerk Kakashi, and Rin-chan."
Itachi nodded slightly. "Why's there a heart around Rin?" he asked.
"Oh. Um..." Obito mentally berated himself for ever thinking that drawing that heart was a good idea. "Rin-chan is a... really special person," he said. "She's very important to me."
"Why?" Itachi asked.
Oh, this would be fun to explain to a four-year-old. "She makes me... feel stronger," Obito said carefully. That was pretty much the exact opposite of the truth, but there was no way he was going to tell Itachi any of the details.
"Do you fight better around her?"
"Yeah, I guess." If attempting to show off and failing miserably counted as fighting better.
Itachi nodded feebly and shut his eyes. "Mother said that people are stronger when they fight for someone important. But Father said that doesn't matter, as long as you're strong."
Mother. Father. Who taught this kid to be so formal, anyway? "What do you think?" Obito asked.
"What do you think?" Itachi echoed.
Obito was about to say he agreed with Mikoto, but then thought about how weak he was, even around Rin. How strong he'd be if he only had the Sharingan. "Fighting for someone else helps a little bit," Obito said, "but it's worthless if you're weak to begin with."
Itachi frowned thoughtfully, his eyes still shut. Slowly, his face smoothed out. Obito thought he was asleep again, until he said, "Then I think so, too."
It was late afternoon when Itachi woke up again, starving. Obito made him some soup for dinner. He offered to get him another plate of dango on the way home to make up for the first – just one, this time – but Itachi turned down the offer.
Obito took him on the roof to stargaze while waiting for it to get late enough for Mikoto or Fugaku to come home. Itachi, however, got bored fairly fast. He asked Obito to tell him a story.
Being the good babysitter that he was, he complied.
Too bad he didn't know any stories.
"Okay, um, what kind of story do you want?" Obito asked.
"One about a famous ninja," Itachi said immediately.
He sure liked fame. "Uh, let's see..." The Hokage were a pretty heroic bunch, but Obito couldn't think of something they had done that would make a good story for a kid. However, there were legends... "Have you ever heard of Sarutobi Sasuke?"
Itachi shook his head.
"Well, he was the Third Hokage's great-great-grandfather," Obito started, "and he—"
"What's a great-great-grandfather?" Itachi asked.
"It's your grandpa's grandpa," Obito said.
Itachi thought about that a moment, then said, "He lived a long time ago?"
"Really long. Before Konoha existed," Obito said.
"Yeah. Back then, no one knew who was a ninja and who wasn't, because we didn't live in villages together. The only people you could trust were your clans. The Sarutobi clan was one of the largest. But there was another clan that was even bigger, and it was mean."
"What was it called?"
"Uh..." Obito didn't remember the name. "They were... the Usagi clan." The Bunny clan. What was he thinking?
Itachi gave Obito a weird look. "That sounds stupid," he said.
"That's why they were so mean!" Obito said quickly. "Everyone made fun of their name."
Itachi accepted this. "So what happened?"
"The Usagi clan, um, did some bad things to Sarutobi Sasuke's sister."
Like rape her, for one thing. But there was no way Obito was telling Itachi that; Mikoto would kill him. "They tortured her for a week, and then they killed her," he said. Itachi's eyes widened.
"But Sasuke didn't let them get away with that! He made sure they got what they deserved," Obito said. "He followed the Usagi clan back to their home, and he punished them all for killing his sister."
"How?" Itachi asked softly, leaning towards Obito, clearly hanging on to every word.
"He killed them, one by one," Obito said. "But not for no reason! He tricked them all into giving him a clue about where the head of the clan was, so he could follow the clues to the man who killed his sister..."
This wasn't how the original legend went. In the original, Sasuke had tricked each member into giving a clue to where his sister was being kept prisoner. But Obito found the deaths a lot more exciting anyway.
Apparently, Itachi did too. He listened eagerly, stunned silent by the amazing story he was hearing. (At age four, Itachi wasn't particularly concerned about the quality of the plot or the storyteller.)
When, ten minutes later, Obito concluded with the Usagi clan leader's decapitation (originally the rescue of Sasuke's sister) and Sarutobi Sasuke's return to his clan as a famous hero, Itachi didn't say a word.
"Did you like it?" Obito asked.
Itachi nodded. "Yes. Thank you."
"No problem." Obito stood up. "It's probably time to get you home. Come on." He scooped up Itachi, holding him tightly as he jumped off the roof and landed on the ground.
Taking Itachi home, Obito was rather proud of himself. He'd managed to come up with a story that kept a kid entertained. Maybe he was good for something after all.
However, Itachi had not heard the harmless adventure story Obito thought he'd told. He had heard something far more important, something that imbedded itself in his mind forever.
Another way to become famous.
They were almost to Itachi's house when he asked one final question.
"Why's the Sharingan so important?"
It was probably the easiest question Itachi had given him all day. "The Sharingan makes you a stronger ninja," he said. "When you see any other jutsu, just once, you'll know it forever."
Itachi nodded. He was walking beside Obito, holding his hand. "So you don't need to train anymore?"
"Not much, I guess," Obito said. "You don't have to practice to learn new jutsu. It just comes to you."
"It sounds lazy," Itachi said. He didn't seem impressed at all.
"No! Well, yeah, it can be used that way," Obito admitted. "But a really strong Uchiha won't do that. He'll learn the basics faster than everyone else, but then he'll go learn harder jutsu, and when he learns them, he'll do even harder ones. So you don't have to be lazy."
After a long moment, Itachi said, "I'm glad we don't have the Sharingan, Obito-kun."
Obito gave him a curious look. "Why's that?"
Itachi was looking around the Uchiha compound, but he looked up at Obito. Contempt for what he saw around them smoldered in his young eyes. "Because everyone here is lazy," he said. "You don't know why the Uchiha are famous, right?"
"Not really," Obito said uneasily. Where was his cousin going with this?
"Then it wasn't important!" Itachi said. "Nobody cares! The Uchiha don't deserve to be famous. None of us did anything to earn it." He kicked at a rock sullenly. "There's nothing special about us at all!"
Is that what had been bothering Itachi all day? This was why he'd been asking all these questions about fame?
"We're very special," Obito said, trying to smile but not quite succeeding. He was supposed to find this amusing, right? Itachi was only four years old.
Yet, wasn't he right? Obito had spent so many years training so hard, but he still wasn't good enough for the clan, because he didn't have the Sharingan. He was embarrassed. He was ashamed.
He had never seen anyone in the Uchiha clan train as hard as he did.
It wasn't fair. Why were those with the Sharingan the special ones? What did they have that Obito didn't?
Obito looked his cousin in the eye. "We are special, but nobody really cares anymore, do they?"
Itachi shook his head. "Everyone thinks that because we're already famous, we don't need to work anymore. That's just stupid. What are we gonna do when everyone forgets about us?"
Obito had wondered the same thing about himself. What would happen when he died, if he didn't have the Sharingan, if he hadn't made a hero of himself? Could that happen to his whole clan?
"Let's make a promise," Obito said suddenly. He stopped walking and let go of Itachi's hand so he could push his goggles onto his forehead. Crouching down in front of his cousin, they looked straight into each other's black eyes. "We're both gonna do everything we can to make sure the Uchiha will be remembered forever. We'll become famous or die trying. How does that sound?"
Itachi nodded enthusiastically. "It's a promise."
"Good." Obito stood and took Itachi's hand, and they started walking home again.
As they went, Itachi said, "I'm glad we're doing this together. You're a better ninja than anyone else in the clan."
Obito blinked. It was just hero worship, he knew that. Itachi was a little kid, what did he know? No one else thought Obito was any good. Itachi was the first person to ever say that.
His eyes started to water, and he quickly wiped them and pulled his goggles back down. There must have been something in the air.
After dropping Itachi off and going home that night, Obito was in a good mood. He had a mission now, a heroic one, one that would make him great...
On the front door of his house, someone had taped a note. He took it down and read it.
"Obito-kun – Sorry you couldn't come with us today, we missed you! Anyway, remember to bring a gift for Kakashi-kun, okay? Making jounin is a big deal, you know. See you tomorrow! – Rin."
And reality blew over Obito's cloud nine, bring with it all the gloom, smog, and eye-irritants of the real world.
Because he was just Obito, the weakest member of his team, not to mention a failure of an Uchiha. If he couldn't even activate his own Sharingan, or make jounin before that jerk Kakashi, what hope did he possibly have of becoming famous?
He slammed the front door behind him, pulling off his goggles and throwing them to the floor. Kakashi and his stupid jounin gift could go to hell for all he cared, stomping down the hall to his room, crumpling up Rin's letter and throwing it at the wastebasket in the bathroom as he passed without turning on a light or bothering to look. He never noticed that it went in without touching the sides.
In his own mind, Obito was still nothing.
The next morning, he had all but forgotten his promise. It was just the silly idea of his four-year-old cousin, after all. He slept in, woke up about two hours later than usual, missed breakfast for the second day in a row, and ran to meet up with his team. Kakashi was a jounin today, he'd never shut up if Obito was late – well, later than usual.
However, Itachi hadn't forgotten the promise. He remembered it for the rest of his life.
With him died his dreams of becoming a greater ninja than Kakashi and winning the heart of Rin.
His wishes of becoming the leader of the Uchiha clan vanished, as well as his fantasy of someday becoming Hokage.
His hope to someday have ten children was gone.
Despite his best efforts, even Rin would die soon, far away from where he could have possible hoped to save her.
The only dream of his that would come true was that by raising Itachi, he would make him the strongest ninja that the Uchiha clan had ever seen.
If he had known how this dream would come about, Obito would have wanted it to die, too.
First Day After
Itachi wasn't alarmed when a couple of days passed without him seeing Obito. He'd gone away on long missions before, after all.
He was a little surprised when the three people he'd seen in Obito's picture came to the door of his house. He was even more startled when his mother started crying.
Itachi edged his way towards the door. "What is it?" he asked. The only one he remembered the name of was Rin.
The one with silver hair – he had a bandage over his left eye – was the one to answer. "Obito-kun died in combat," he said. "I'm sorry. He gave his life for the good of Konoha."
Died. Itachi stared. No, no, that couldn't be. He was supposed to help Itachi make the clan famous. He was supposed to be a hero.
"How did he die?"" Mikoto asked.
"He was trying to save Rin," the silver-haired boy said. "But he was caught under a rock, and... I'm sorry. This is my fault. If I'd just..."
The yellow-haired man put his hand on the boy's shoulder, and he fell silent.
No. Itachi jerked his gaze over to Rin. This wasn't what Obito had said.
What makes a ninja famous?
Another way is to die to save someone important.
Rin-chan is a really special person. She's very important to me.
The silver-haired boy cleared his throat. "I thought... you should know, Obito isn't completely gone. He... gave me something, before he died." Wordlessly, he unwrapped the bandage around his face.
The skin was puffy, raw, pink and red, bruised and blue, scarred and laced with stitches. Under one misshapen eyelid was a red eye, a Sharingan eye.
It was the most disgusting sight Itachi would ever see.
Mikoto gasped. "That's..."
"Yes, ma'am," the boy said. "I'll do whatever I can to protect what's left of him. I promise."
The Sharingan makes you a stronger ninja.
So he had finally activated it. He had used the Sharingan, he had been fighting to save someone important, but he had died anyway.
That was when Itachi realized his eyes were worthless by themselves.
"Thank you for telling us," Mikoto said, and opened the door a little wider. "Would you like to come in?"
The silver-haired boy backed up, shaking his head, almost pushing his way through Rin and the other man to get away. "No, thank you. We need to visit the rest of your clan."
When they were gone, Itachi snuck out his window and ran to the training area Obito had given to him. He took out two kunai, one in each hand, and stood in position to run at the rock and vault off it. If he copied exactly what Obito did...
Five steps forward. Leap. Kick off. Jump, throw. Land. For the first time, Itachi landed without stumbling.
Both kunai had hit the correct trees. They didn't get the targets, but they were close. Obito had said that was good enough.
Itachi kept training until he couldn't see through his tears.
The air here is cleaner. It's because the Uchiha have to keep their eyes clean.
He wiped his eyes furiously, sinking to his knees, rubbing until the tears stopped coming and his eyes were completely dry.
After that day, after crying at the training area, after grieving for Obito, Itachi never cried again.
Two Weeks After
Some time after Obito's funeral had come and gone and the fanfare had died down, Mikoto and Fugaku suddenly took Itachi out to get him a treat. They stopped at the same dango shop where Obito had taken Itachi the day before he died. He wondered why he wasn't supposed to eat off someone else's plate of dango, but didn't question that it was true. Obito was the one who had told him, after all. Maybe he'd figure it out later.
Itachi barely picked at his treat. He hadn't had an appetite for the past couple of weeks, except when he came home from training himself. He'd gotten very good at evading all the relatives Mikoto found to baby-sit him so he could sneak out to the clearing with the targets.
Mikoto and Fugaku didn't speak for a long time. Finally, Fugaku cleared his throat and glanced at Mikoto. She met his gaze and nodded. "Itachi, there's something your father and I have been meaning to tell you," she said.
Itachi just looked at his parents. They were looking back, as if they expected him to react to this news, so he said, "What is it?"
His mother beamed, and his father slipped an arm around her shoulder – a rare sign of affection. "In a few months, you're going to be a brother," Fugaku said.
"That's right," Mikoto said. "Some time next summer, your little sister—"
"Or brother," Fugaku interjected.
She glared at him. "Or brother, will join our family."
Itachi stared at them. A sibling. A baby, in his home. Some little person he'd be tied to by blood. Closer than a friend, closer than a teammate...
Closer than even a cousin.
As Itachi faced his parents with an utterly blank face, a little spark of hope in him died. A mere fourteen days after Obito's death, Itachi's parents could smile and proudly declare they were ushering another young Uchiha into the world.
How was I created?
I was somewhere else at the time.
Obito had promised that he would make their clan famous or die trying. He had died trying.
And he was already being replaced.
Itachi felt dizzy. The world came apart at the corners, shifting at weird angles, throwing him off-balance and almost making him fall as he stood up. He didn't hear what his parents said as he ran out of the dango shop.
The road tilted wildly and he felt like each time his foot hit the ground, he was trying to kick off the side of a rock. Itachi kept his eyes shut, feeling where each footstep landed. An Uchiha's eyes can never be trusted.
When Itachi stopped running, he was somewhere outside the Uchiha compound. It was late enough that the streets were filled with shadows, though the sun hadn't started to set.
There were a few people strolling through the streets in this part of Konoha, but not many. Itachi found a bench to sit on and watched the people walking by, lost in his own thoughts.
A replacement. A little brother – because Itachi had already convinced himself that there was no way his parents would have a girl to replace Obito. He was already furious at his future sibling. How dare it try to take the place of Obito, the greatest Uchiha that ever lived?
He sat there five minutes before someone gently tapped his shoulder, asking, "Hey, are you lost?"
"Yeah," Itachi confessed, before he looked up and recognized the girl. "Rin-chan?"
For a moment she was surprised, and then sadness softened her face. "Oh, you're an Uchiha, aren't you? I'm so sorry about Obito."
Itachi nodded automatically. This was the girl Obito had given his life to save.
Looking at Rin, a thought occurred to Itachi, and in that thought, he regained hope for fulfilling his promise. In a flash of inspiration, he saw it all; Konoha would never ever forget the Uchiha clan again. They would be famous until the end of time.
His thought was the sudden realization that Obito had been wrong. A ninja could not become famous by dying to save someone important. There were only two ways to become famous; by massacring many ninja at the same time, and by getting revenge against a killer.
Fighting for someone else helps a little bit, but it's worthless if you're weak to begin with.
Itachi could do this.
He would make the clan famous by being a killer.
Obito's replacement would make the clan immortal by being an avenger.
"Are you okay?" Rin asked, touching Itachi's shoulder again.
He jerked his head up and looked at her. She seemed so concerned. Itachi felt fury well up at her, the same hate he had felt when he thought about his sibling. Obito had died for nothing, and it was her fault. Miss precious, special Rin.
He stared at her, waiting for her to speak first.
My sensei said there's no such thing as a stupid question, except...
"Is something wrong?" Rin leaned forward a bit, looking at Itachi's face. "You look upset."
Itachi shook his head and stood up. "I'm okay," he said. "Can you help me get home? I don't know where I am."
Rin smiled. "Sure." She took his hand, and they started walking. "You probably don't go this far out of the clan without someone else, do you?"
"No." Itachi watched the route they took carefully, making sure that he'd remember it if he ever came back this way.
Rin stopped walking, and Itachi turned to see who was coming up. It was the silver-haired boy on Obito's team, dressed in black and holding a bouquet of white flowers.
"Hey," Rin said, smiling but not naturally. "Where were you today?"
The boy shrugged. "Oh, around."
"You were visiting him again, weren't you?"
He avoided Rin's gaze. "Maybe."
Rin sighed. "You can't keep doing this. It wasn't your fault."
"I know, I know..."
She sighed and started walking again, pulling Itachi with her. "Look, I have to take him home. He's lost."
"I'll go with you?" he said, almost like it was a question. Rin shrugged, so the boy followed, putting Itachi between himself and her.
They walked in silence for a while. Itachi took a few unconcealed looks at the boy. He was wearing his forehead protector over his left eye, and kept reaching up to readjust the knot in the back so it wouldn't slip off. The scars and stitches were still visible, but fading fast. And underneath was Obito's Sharingan.
Finally, Rin sighed, and turned to the boy. "You've changed so much recently. Is this how you handle it every time you get a little stressed?" She forced a laugh.
He looked at her, shocked. "A little stress? This isn't... Obito..."
"Yes, I know," Rin snapped, then shut her eyes and calmed herself. "Look. Do you think Obito would have acted like this if something had happened to you?"
Itachi could see the hurt cross the boy's one exposed eye, but he didn't answer.
"He would have kept on going, for you and for everyone else. He wouldn't just give up," Rin said. Her eyes started welling up, and Itachi found himself thinking, bizarrely, about the impure air outside the Uchiha compound. "Obito gave part of himself to you, and you refused to even show it to anyone! You haven't gone on a new mission since he died! Can't you keep living for his sake?"
The boy was silent again. As the entrance to the Uchiha compound came into sight, Itachi suddenly remembered the boy's name.
"Can I see Obito's Sharingan?" Itachi asked.
"Huh? Oh, sure." He crouched down in front of Itachi, and he could see a faint smile under the facemask as he took off his forehead protector. "You didn't get to see it before he died, huh?"
Itachi stared into the eye. A Sharingan with two tomoe, almost fully developed the first time it had been used. It was surrounded by a mess of scarred skin, but it had once belonged to Obito.
I guess I'm a little embarrassed about not being able to use the Sharingan.
It belonged to Obito no more. This boy didn't have a right to show it off to the world, he should keep it hidden. He didn't have a right to live for Obito's sake, he had a replacement coming that would do that.
Itachi pulled his hand out of Rin's and spat in the Sharingan. "Kakashi, you jerk!" he snarled, then ran as fast as his legs could take him back into the Uchiha compound.
Less than five seconds elapsed between Itachi knocking on his own front door and Mikoto burying him in a grateful hug.
"Itachi, we were so worried about you!" she said, kissing his forehead three times before he managed to push her off.
"I'm fine," Itachi said, trying to walk past his mother to find Fugaku standing in the doorway.
"Where were you?" he asked, arms crossed. "Do you know what could have happened to you? Anyone can sneak into Konoha during times like these, and they all want to get at the clans with kekkei genkai. What if they had found you, Itachi?"
He shrugged. He didn't know.
Apparently just glad that Itachi was home, Mikoto crouched down to give him another hug, then held him by the shoulders at arm's length. "Itachi, I'm so sorry if we upset you," she said. "We wanted to break the news to you gently, but we realize it's coming at a bad time, isn't it?"
Itachi shrugged again. He didn't want them to know what he felt.
"We'll still have time before the baby comes," she said. "If you want, we can talk about it, and help you get used to the idea. How does that sound?"
"It's okay," he said. "I'm ready to be a brother." He had it all planned out.
Itachi slid out of his mother's hands, and wove between her and Fugaku to get into the house. Once he was past them, he stopped, turned around, and said, "Can you promise me something?"
Mikoto and Fugaku both looked at him in surprise. "What is it?" his father asked.
But Sasuke didn't let them get away with that! He made sure they got what they deserved.
He killed them, one by one.
"Name him Sasuke," Itachi said, and walked away.
As he left, he could hear his father say, "Sasuke... Sasuke, like Sarutobi Sasuke? It sounds powerful. What do you think, Mikoto? I bet Hokage-sama would be pleased, too."
"Sasuke? But what if it's a girl?"
"Oh, I'm sure we can think of something. What was Sarutobi Sasuke's sister named?"
"We are not naming it after his sister! Do you know what happened to her?"
Itachi left them behind and went to his room alone to plan out how he would make the Uchiha clan famous.
Four Years After
Itachi, eight years old, mastered the fully formed Sharingan on Sasuke's third birthday. He didn't plan on telling anyone, though. Not right away. He had something he needed to do with it.
He'd first activated the Sharingan on the anniversary of Obito's death, with only one tomoe in each eye, while watching Kakashi fight with a boy named Might Guy. Itachi hadn't shown anyone for over a year, until he had gotten his Sharingan to look like Obito's eyes had when he'd died; two tomoe in each eye.
The first person he had shown was Sasuke. He had been two and a half at the time, and not very talkative. Itachi had simply picked him up and looked into his eyes, and Sasuke smiled back at his older brother, reaching forward with a finger to trace the sockets around Itachi's Sharingan. "Red?" he said shyly.
"Yeah," Itachi had responded, softly. He set Sasuke back on the floor in the kitchen, where he'd been playing with a plush bunny while Mikoto cooked dinner, mere feet away.
She had turned around and smiled and said, "Itachi, would you help prepare dinner?" without noticing a thing.
He had said yes.
He hadn't shown anyone else his Sharingan.
Today was Sasuke's birthday, and Itachi was on a mission. His sensei had given his team three hours to track down a missing-nin that had fled Konoha. Itachi had gained the final tomoe in his left eye while trying to spy the missing-nin's movements through the woods. Now, he had split up from the rest of the team, and instead of continuing to follow the missing-nin, he decided to swing back to Konoha.
Three hours was plenty of time for him to show his Sharingan to a second person, get back, and finish his mission. Besides, he had to celebrate Sasuke's birthday somehow.
It was fairly easy for Itachi to slip into his home without Mikoto seeing. When Sasuke had come, she'd decided to be a stay-at-home mother, which made it harder for him to sneak around unnoticed; however, right now she was at the front of the house talking to relatives who had come by to wish her son a happy birthday, so Itachi slipped in the back.
He found his brother in the living room, dressed in a brand-new green shirt with a wide collar. It was much too big for him but he seemed very happy. Itachi suspected that had more to do with the tomato seeds smeared around his mouth and the orange rubber ball in his sticky hands than it did to do with the shirt.
"Happy birthday, otouto," Itachi said, picking Sasuke up under the arms and giving him a quick kiss on the less dirty cheek.
"Hey niisan!" Sasuke was already smiling, but his smile widened when he saw Itachi's eyes. He dropped his ball and reached forward with both sticky hands to touch his face.
"Do you remember these?" Itachi asked. Sasuke nodded, and attempted to poke his left eye. Itachi pulled back, and Sasuke giggled.
"It shiny," Sasuke said eloquently. Itachi set him back on the ground and handed him his ball again.
"It's your secret birthday present," Itachi said. "Don't tell anyone else."
"Okay," Sasuke agreed, his attention already transferred to his ball. He hardly noticed when his older brother slipped out of the house.
He made a pitiful replacement, indeed.
Itachi put thoughts of Sasuke out of his mind. He still had to deliver one more gift. This one was for Obito.
Over the past three years, Itachi had thought over Obito's death enough to know that, from everything Obito believed, it had been a good death. If Obito had been correct, it should have made him famous. There was simply something wrong in the calculation.
Instead, Obito had died for nothing. But Itachi didn't want to accept that. If anyone in the world deserved to have a meaningful death, Obito did. Through his cousin's death, Itachi had discovered a way to make the clan famous, yes, but that wasn't enough. There had to be something more, something for Obito personally. Itachi would make that happen.
Kakashi, Itachi had learned, visited Obito's memorial every day. Rin visited only twice a month, and luckily, this was one of those days she would visit. When she appeared, Itachi was waiting, standing in front of the memorial.
She walked up to the memorial with a simple bouquet in her hands, but slowed down, uncertain, when she saw Itachi. "Oh, hello," she said, confused. "You're Itachi-kun, aren't you?"
He didn't answer. She was seventeen now, even more beautiful than when Obito had known her. Itachi had heard that she had been dating Kakashi for a few months.
He wondered what she thought of his left eye.
Rin shifted on her feet nervously. "Are you here for..."
As long as you reach your goal, it doesn't matter if you do it right.
The speed that the Sharingan allowed him to move at was truly amazing. Itachi moved before Rin had time to think, pulled out a kunai before she had time to move, slit her throat before she had time to defend. If she had tried to avoid his attack he would have seen it and compensated without slowing down. She was on her knees, clutching her throat and bleeding, trying to heal the gaping wound with blue-green chakra from her palm.
He watched long enough to memorize her medical jutsu, then kicker her hand away, kicked her head to knock her out, crouched over her body and drove the kunai into her chest.
Rin was the second person he had ever shown his Sharingan to.
Itachi sat there long enough to make sure she would never wake up. Then he wiped his kunai off in the grass, picked up Rin's bouquet, and dropped it in front of the memorial. "Now you can be with her forever," he whispered, and was gone.
Following all the rules is stupid, anyway.
An hour and a half had passed. He ran as fast as his legs would move out of the village, not worried at all that he wouldn't see the branches as he leaped from tree to tree. He found the missing-nin and captured him alive in less than two hours.
Nobody ever found out how Rin had died. Kakashi refused to speak to anyone for almost two months. Itachi didn't tell anyone about his Sharingan for another two months after that, just in case. No one ever suspected him.
Thirteen Years After
It was just the way he remembered it.
The grass brushed against Itachi's legs as he walked through the field. It didn't come up quite as high on him as it had the last time he had visited – five years ago, after he had massacred the clan. He had come to say that he had done it, fulfilled their promise. But he wasn't finished yet.
With his photographic memory, Itachi remembered the exact place where Rin had bled to death. Now, it looked exactly like the rest of the field to everyone except him. And maybe Kakashi – he had an eye, too.
His hat hid the sky from his eyes; the high collar of his Akatsuki coat hid the ground from him; the soft jingle of the bells on his hat kept the sound of wind from his ears. All Itachi saw was the memorial that Obito's name was engraved on. He stood in silence for a moment, then got down on one knee to place a bouquet at the base of the memorial.
"I kept our promise," he said softly. It was the first time in years he let the hardness leave his voice. "But I'm not finished yet, Obito-kun. When I'm done, the Uchiha will be immortal."
He stood to leave, and after a final look, turned away.
We'll become famous or die trying. How does that sound?
It's a promise.
He had a mission to complete.
"Where were you, Itachi-san?" Kisame asked as Itachi sat down across the table from him. He'd already ordered them each a plate of dango, knowing Itachi would want some. It wasn't the same as having dango in the shop he'd visited as a child, but at least he was in the same village, where they used the same ingredients. It tasted close to the original.
"Paying my respects," Itachi said simply.
Kisame gave him a quizzical look. "To your clan?" He kept his voice low; they couldn't be overheard, here of all places.
"Only to one of the members." Itachi started eating.
"I don't think I'll ever make sense of you," Kisame said, shaking his head. "Why did you kill them, anyway? You never did explain."
Itachi hesitated a moment before answering. It wouldn't hurt, he decided. "Fame."
"No, for the clan."
Kisame snorted. "Now I know you'll never make sense," he said, smirking as he reached over to steal one of Itachi's dango.
Itachi rapped him on the back of the hand with a knuckle. "Never steal dango off someone else's plate," he said.
Scowling, Kisame sat back. "Why not?"
Did we learn something from this?
Something about dango?
"Because it might be poisoned," Itachi said. A ghost of a smirk graced his face, devious as it always had been, and he ate his dango.